The SDLA posts profiles of our Fellows at the time they are admitted to the SDLA Institute. After graduation, many Fellows change jobs and advance in their careers, which is not reflected in these bios. Accomplishments of SDLA Institute Alum can be found here.
Catherine Quirk works as the Director of Public Relations for the Armed Services YMCA San Diego, a non-profit that makes military life easier for local active duty service members and their loved ones. At the ASYMCA, Catherine manages organization-wide media relations, often serving as the agency spokesperson, while maintaining multimedia platforms such as website and social media accounts. Catherine also executes large-scale fundraising events and engineers marketing campaigns, such as the first-ever membership drive that garnered 10,000 members of military families in less than five months.
Recently, Catherine has been selected to be a part of the North American YMCA Development Organization (NAYDO) Young Professionals Class of 2014. As an Orange County native, Catherine previously served as the Community Service Event Specialist for the City of Fullerton Parks & Recreation.
Catherine earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from University of San Diego. During college, she also studied abroad in Guadalajara at ITESO Universidad where she volunteered at a children’s orphanage. Additional international volunteerism sparked a passion for youth development and education.
Catherine has called San Diego home for over 6 years and enjoys the eclectic energy of the city. She can often be found near the beach with her rescue dog.
Matt Yagyagan is a Special Projects Organizer at Alliance San Diego. In that role he advocates for equitable K-12 education policies, trains parents from low-income communities to be leaders in education, and mobilizes stakeholders to act on statewide education legislation.
Prior to joining Alliance San Diego, Matt was a 2011 Students for Economic Justice Intern, a 2011 Fellow in People For the American Way’s Front Line Leaders Academy, and a 2010 OCA Intern in the Office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In his spare time, Matt is a Mentor with People For the American Way’s Civic Engagement Fellowship and a Facilitator for OCA’s Asian Pacific American Y-Advocate youth leadership program. He is the Secretary for the AAPI Democratic Club of San Diego and an Advisory Board member for the Students for Economic Justice internship.
Matt graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010 with dual B.A.s in Political Science and Ethnic Studies. While at Cal, he helped organize thousands of students in 2009 against budget cuts to public education, mobilized 2010 Census participation in Oakland’s low-income communities, and developed partnerships between the UC Berkeley Multicultural Center and the Bay Area community. Matt was born and raised in San Diego.
Emily Wier is a biologist at Dudek, an environmental consulting firm, and also volunteers with SanDiego350.org, a grassroots climate change awareness organization in San Diego County. Her two interests are intertwined, as she sees first-hand through her biological surveys the impacts that continuing development has on the natural world. Her interest in climate change action is driven by concern for species and habitat conservation.
Emily serves as a Steering Committee Member for SanDiego350.org, where she plays a key role in organization management and strategic planning, coalition building, volunteer leadership development, and policy analysis. Emily was recently appointed to the City of San Diego’s Sustainable Energy Advisory Board, where she advocates for renewable, local energy and policies that support those goals. Her professional career with Dudek focuses on habitat and species management, analytical reporting, and special-status species surveys.
Emily Wier graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts where she was involved in different environmental groups while pursuing a B.S. in biology. Her studies enabled her to research habitat conservation and environmental protection in New England, South America, and Africa.
Emily is an avid enthusiast of outdoor activities, and enjoys running, hiking, bicycling, and bird-watching. She is currently preparing to climb Mount Whitney this summer.
As a Programs Manager at Feeding America San Diego (FASD), Jennifer Seneor oversees the Mobile Pantry Program that distributes 1.32 million pounds of food annually to rural communities and the CalFresh Program that helps thousands of low-income San Diegans access benefits. Over the last 3 years, Jennifer has been dedicated to advocating for improvement to the food stamp program at a local, state, and national level. She serves as a part of the California Hunger Action Coalition, organizing an annual trip of over 50 community members to Sacramento to speak about pieces of legislation impacting low-income communities.
Prior to joining FASD, Jennifer lived in Ecuador as an English teacher for a University in a rural community. Jennifer majored in Sociology at UCLA. While in Los Angeles, Jennifer led a successful campaign to implement a Designator Suppliers Program to ensure that all UC-apparel is made in factories with just labor practices. Jennifer also developed a food distribution that serves over a 100 homeless individuals weekly and worked with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
Jennifer looks forward to continuing to build a progressive community in San Diego that furthers economic and social justice for all San Diegans.
Sarah Saez is currently the Program Director of the United Taxi Workers of San Diego, a multi-ethnic organization that fights for justice, rights, respect and dignity for San Diego taxi lease drivers – who are considered independent contractors and labor 12 to 16 hour shifts with little pay and protection. UTWSD uses organizing, direct action, legal and health services, media presence, political advocacy and its allies and supporters to help build power for one of the most vulnerable immigrant workforces in the country.
Sarah is also completing her Master’s degree at the University of San Diego in Nonproﬁt Leadership and Management. The nationally recognized program equips practitioners with leadership theories and management tools to create high-performing nonprofit organizations.
Prior to San Diego Sarah lived in the Dominican Republic where she witnessed the reality of third world poverty. This led her to a degree in Sociology and activism in Miami Florida where she joined her first campaign with the Coalition of Immokalee farm workers. Sarah, originally from Boston, is the product of proud liberal parents who met and grew up in New York. Her father from Puerto Rico grew up in Spanish Harlem and her mother migrated from the Dominican Republic at the age of thirteen to Washington Heights. She wouldn't be the person she is without the compassion they taught her growing up. Any free time Sarah has is spent hanging out with her boyfriend Oliver and their three puppies Shilo, Wally and Ella.
Crystal Page is the Communications Director at the Center on Policy Initiatives. There she works to develop integrated communication strategies that contribute to campaign wins on projects and campaigns such as the Community Budget Alliance and the Property Value Protection Ordinance.
As the owner of Crystal Page Productions she has developed websites for community based organizations and produced videos for unions, nonprofits and private clients.
Content producer, digital strategist and web developer—Crystal has spent the last decade creating and managing digital content for clients and employers such as SEIU-USWW, Good Jobs LA and Brave New Films. Additionally, while living in Chicago, she gave her time to WLUW 88.7 as a broadcast engineer for community programming. Her syndicated reality show, “A Just Sparkle,” continues to air on CAN-TV teaching viewers how to shop sweatshop-free. Crystal earned a MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and a dual BA in Communication and Theology from Loyola University of Chicago.
Luis O. Osuna is a native San Diegan with strong ties to Mexico. He lived in Mexico for the first five years of his life before moving to San Diego. Having family in Mexico, he has maintained a close personal relationship with Mexico.
Mr. Osuna graduated from the U.C. Berkeley, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He received a Juris Doctorate degree from California Western School of Law in San Diego. While at California Western School of Law, he was a Diversity Scholarship Recipient and was awarded the Pro Bono and Public Service Honors Society Award.
Today, in addition to providing quality and attentive service to his clients, Mr. Osuna is actively involved with the San Diego community through his work as a Board of Director and Co-Chair of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association's Political Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the San Diego County Bar Association, Immigration Law section, the Criminal Defense Bar Association and the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego organization. While he practices immigration law and criminal defense, he is also an associate at Golper, Sullivan & Rivera, a San Diego based personal injury and workers' compensation law firm.
Samantha Ollinger is the founder of BikeSD, Inc, a non-profit cycling advocacy organization whose mission is to transform San Diego's streetscape to be a world-class bicycle friendly city. As the Executive Director, Ollinger sees San Diego exemplifying the ideal urban city that civic leaders around the world can only aspire to. Bicycling is one of the many avenues to lead San Diego onto the world-stage and BikeSD is committed to changing and executing the city's narrative that will drive this transformation.
Ollinger immigrated to the U.S. from India a year before turning 18 and simultaneously curses and blesses the experience that came with experiencing her final year of high school within the American public school system in the heart of Amish country. A graduate of Temple University with a Business Administration degree with a focus on Accounting, Ollinger sees herself as a lifelong learner driven by insatiable curiosity and sees societal inequities and problems solvable via human intellect, empathy and a lot of compassion.
An advocate for open source software, local and sustainable food, and an avid reader, Ollinger lives with her husband and hundreds of compost worms (in a worm bin) in City Heights, San Diego.
Kate McDevitt is the senior manager for School Wellness Programs at UC San Diego School of Medicine, Division of Community Health. Kate works with low-income schools to increase good nutrition and physical activity for students, while advising school districts on health and wellness improvements. Kate is an award-winning public-health advocate with experience in non-profit leadership, strategic planning, and youth-campaign management. She is a local leader in advancing policy, systems and environment changes in our communities. Kate works with government officials and community leaders on meaningful, long-term policy and environment changes reflecting that where we live determines our heath.
Kate served as a board member for Slow Food Urban San Diego, and was chair of Slow Food’s first Food Justice Committee in the U.S. In 2013, Kate was accepted to the first cohort of the Center for Collaborative Planning's "Women's Health Leadership-Network Leaders on the Move" program.
Kate graduated with honors from Bucknell University, with degrees in Human Service Systems and Theatre. She holds certifications in both Indigenous Permaculture Design and Nonprofit Management, and is a graduate of the Center for Agro-ecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz.
In 2013, Kate was named Principal Recipient of the UC San Diego Exemplary Employee of the Year Award. She looks forward to continuing her work in leadership, government relations, and forward-thinking community planning and development
Noor Kazmi was born in Montclair, CA and moved to San Diego in 1994. She graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California, and attended law school in San Diego. Early in 2013, Noor left the law firm of Robbins Geller to start a solo civil litigation firm, with an emphasis on Landlord/Tenant law and eviction defense.
Noor is also the past president and current board member of Girls Think Tank, a volunteer organization that advocates for the basic dignity of the homeless in San Diego.
Robert Lopez joined ACCION San Diego in March of 2008 as the Director of Lending. He is responsible for lending staff supervision and training, program development, underwriting, loan portfolio quality and management, loss mitigation and recovery, development of bank and community partner relationships, and community outreach.
Lopez received a B.A. in Urban Studies, with an emphasis in Public Administration from San Diego State University and a Master of Public Administration from SDSU in December 2010. He has over 13 years experience in small business banking and lending and is bilingual in English and Spanish. Prior employment includes work with Union Bank of California, California Coast Credit Union, Coast Central Credit Union, & Fannie Mae.
Lopez serves on the CDC Bankers Board and is the former Graduate Student Association President at SDSU. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering, traveling and attending live sporting events.
Seamus Kennedy is the Individual Giving Manager at the Environmental Health Coalition and is tasked with improving the visibility and donor network for the organization, which includes cultivating and growing the relationships EHC has in their community and throughout the region.
A native to the underserved community of Encanto, Seamus began by volunteering, interning, then working for the Jacobs Center for Non-profit Innovation while in college as they came together to bring vital amenities to southeastern San Diego.
After college, Seamus travelled the country, working on campaigns at all levels of government. During his time away, he pushed to elect progressive candidates to State Assemblies, the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate. In 2012, he was the Finance Director for Scott Peters successful run for congress in CA-52.
Seamus graduated from San Diego State University with degrees in Political Science and History with minors in English and Islamic Studies. He also has recently graduated with a Masters in Nonprofit Administration for the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.
He is native San Diegan who had to leave to find how much he appreciated where he’s from and wants to help shape the future for his hometown.
A first generation college student, Shawna Held attended Fairhaven College at Western Washington University (WWU) where she designed an interdisciplinary major focused on eating disorders and young women’s empowerment. During her time at WWU, she gained extensive experience and developed a passion for student affairs through her work as a Resident Advisor and as the Assistant Coordinator of WWU’s Women’s Center.
After graduating in 2010, Shawna served as an AmeriCorps member with the Multicultural Outreach Team at WWU’s Office of Admissions. In this role, she coordinated a mentor program for first generation, low income, and underrepresented students.
In 2013, Shawna received her Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies, with an emphasis on female athletes. Since August of 2013, Shawna has served as the Program Coordinator for the UC San Diego Athletics Department. In this role, she assists the Athletics Director and coordinates internal affairs with coaches, athletes and Athletics Department administrators.
Shawna is an active member of the LGBT Center’s Young Professional’s Council, currently volunteers for Girls on the Run San Diego and has interned for the International Rescue Committee’s Summer Soccer Program for refugee girls.
Jennifer Gunsaullus, PhD, is a sociologist, sexuality speaker, and intimacy counselor, who challenges individuals and audiences to think outside the sexual box. Her mission is to create a broad paradigm shift around healthy sexuality and gender roles, through cultivating mindfulness. She is a frequent speaker on topics including healthy relationships, body image, erotic play, sexual health, and mindful sexuality.
Dr. Jenn is an intimacy expert on the local morning news and writes for The Good Men Project. She is the co-author of Am I Normal? A Woman’s Guide to Sexuality, for young women exploring their sexuality. She is on the board of directors for Jeans 4 Justice and actively involved in the donor’s circle, Women Give San Diego. Additionally, she has been an adjunct professor for courses including Human Sexuality, Women & Health, Gender Studies, and Social Psychology.
Dr. Jenn has over 200 free videos on her Dr. Jenn’s Den YouTube Channel educating about sex, relationships, communication, social issues, and mindfulness. She was pleased to merge her educational passions in her recent TEDx Talk entitled Sex: Mind full or Mindful?
Nathan Cedilla was born in the Philippines, raised in San Diego, and finished his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley. As an undergrad, he spent his time increasing access to higher education for young students of color. During his third year at UC Berkeley, Nathan became involved in HIV healthcare and wellness. He began his career in HIV work as a Peer Leader for the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Wellness Center, a prominent provider of health services to Bay Area APIs. After his work with the API Wellness Center, Nathan began a series of statewide workshops and trainings about API sexual health.
In 2012, Nathan joined Family Health Centers of San Diego as a Health Educator. Having made the transition into his dream field, he has dedicated himself to providing high-quality healthcare to under-served communities and peoples. Nathan facilitates and maintains two projects for FHCSD: a community-level HIV prevention project and 1-on-1 counseling for men of color at high risk for HIV infection and/or substance use.
Nathan also supervises the Clean Syringe Exchange Project (CSEP). CSEP aims to decrease the transmission rates of blood-borne infections by distributing clean needles and risk reduction services to San Diegans.
Jeff Graves is a native San Diegan union organizer with the Service Employees International Union, Local 221. SEIU Local 221 represents nearly 13,000 public sector, school district and non-profit workers from different jurisdictions within San Diego and Imperial Counties. Nationally, SEIU represents over 2-million members (including members in Canada and Puerto Rico). Jeff independently represents over 1,200 workers in the Downtown San Diego region from County of San Diego District Attorney, Public Defender, Probation, Department of Child Support, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk and Treasurer-Tax Collector, as well as the Housing Commission and Superior Court. Jeff fights to improve the lives of working families by enforcing their contract, encouraging civic engagement and democratic participation through their union, training them on their rights as well as educating workers about the importance of the union.
Before working with SEIU Local 221, Jeff was a rank-and-file member activist and shop steward with the County of San Diego Recorder's office. He proudly served the County for 10 years in records management, dealing with public and confidential information. As a public servant, Jeff took part in the historic 2008 California Supreme Court ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage, serving as a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages and performing LGBTQ ceremonies. He later went on to protest the results of Proposition 8 (banning same-sex marriages) and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community by rescinding his status as a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages for the County of San Diego, vowing to not participate until marriage equality was fully restored for all Californians.
Jeff is also an active member of various community organizations, including the Coalition for Labor & Community Solidarity (CLCS), Lambda Archives and Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO).
William O. Burties has worked in Southeastern San Diego for over five years and has passion for the community in which he works and grew up. William’s professional background is in banking, real estate, and non-profit. With this background, William has and is continuing to create greater economic opportunities for Southeastern San Diego through Real Estate and business development.
William’s recent success is the establishment of Power Monday an entrepreneurial program that aids entrepreneurs to empower, inspire, and educate to achieve success and to leave a lasting foundation for the next generation to stand on. William has also been instrumental in the rehabilitation of all Bayview CDC apartment buildings.
William is married with two children Zeylan, 3 years old and Zydale, 1 year old.
Raised in San Diego's South Bay since age 2, Marco Briones was born to a single mother, from whom he learned the values that guide him today. Marco is still continuing his education at San Diego City College with plans to transfer to SDSU and focus on Political Science or History.
At City College he was one of the first members of a school organization called Bringing Education and Activism Together (BEAT) that introduced him to social and economic justice issues and how to get involved in standing up for them. This experience motivated Marco to look for ways he could help better his community and the lives of working families in a positive way, which led him to the Labor Council. After the November 2012 elections and subsequent special elections he pursued a position in the District Office of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, representing the 80th Assembly District.
Amanda Bonds currently serves as the Early and Community Literacy Programs Manager at Words Alive – a local literacy non-profit where she manages the agency’s Community Reading Initiatives and an integrated series of programs targeting children and families. Bonds also represents Words Alive on the San Diego Council on Literacy, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Vice-Chair of Affiliate Programs.
Bonds began her work in the nonprofit sector in 2005 as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Keeping Austin Housed Coalition, providing advocacy and case management to Spanish speaking, homeless immigrant families in her native state of Texas.
Prior to joining Words Alive, she earned her Master's degree in Literature from the University of California, San Diego while teaching in the Making of the Modern World writing program.
Amanda Solomon Amorao holds a PhD in Asian American Literature with a research specialty in Filipino writing in English. In particular, she explores questions of cultural production, gender, decolonization, and sovereignty in her research. She has also been a lecturer at UC San Diego's Ethnic Studies Department, Critical Gender Studies Program, Literature Department, and Revelle Humanities Program. Currently, she is Interim Associate Director of UCSD's Culture, Art, & Technology Program as well as an instructor at San Diego State's Center for Asian & Pacific Studies.
For the past two years, Amanda has served as Executive Director of the Kuya Ate Mentorship Program of San Diego or KAMP, an intergenerational education program that brings workshops on Filipino American history, culture, and identity to local middle school and high school classrooms with large Filipino populations. KAMP creates dynamic learning spaces grounded in dialogue and the communal production of knowledge and seeks to empower its students to be fully participatory and transformative in our local and global communities. Now in existence for more than five years, KAMP has established its presence in the local Filipino American community as a space of cross-cultural collaboration dedicated to social justice. Amanda is proud to lead the mentors of KAMP as it works to transition from a grassroots group into its own nonprofit organization.